Belfast AUT
Newsletters

Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 7 June 1999

Contents

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Premature Retirement and Voluntary Service

reddot.gif (924 bytes)The Bett Report

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Continuing Action

The Times Higher Supplement

reddot.gif (924 bytes)QUB Finances

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Upward Appraisal

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Claiming Expenses

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Annual General Meeting

Accelerated Increments and use of Discretionary Points

 


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Premature Retirement and Voluntary Severance

A paper on premature retirement and related matters has been circulated to heads of schools and support departments. The document indicates that from 30 September 1999, the terms on which early retirement will be available to most staff will much less favourable than at present. The document also proposes the setting up of a redundancy committee and specifies timetables for acceptance of offers of PRCS and severance for those affected by restructuring in Medicine and areas of administration. In our view, the timetables implied in the document are not realistic. Moreover they are not in line with the undertakings given at a meeting between AUT and Senior Officers of the University at which AUT’s Assistant General Secretary, Brian Everett was present.

AUT is deeply concerned about this and other aspects of the document. We enter negotiations with the University in good faith and we expect representatives of the University management to be in a position to do likewise.

We are advising members affected by this document not to take any action at this stage. We will be discussing the issue at our meeting with Senior Officers of the University on Tuesday and will advise members on developments.

Renee Prendergast

Rumours are being circulated that, with the agreement of Belfast AUT, a Redundancy Committee has been set up, and even naming the managers on it. Nothing is further from the truth. A Redundancy Committee can only be set up by Standing Committee. That met on Thursday (I am on it) and the matter was not even discussed. Some senior QUB officers raised the issue of a Redundancy Committee with Belfast AUT in a recent meeting in the context of fixed-term appointments. We firmly rejected it saying that only a hand-full of universities had ever set up a Redundancy Committee, and most of them had soon abandoned the idea when they saw the impact that it had on relations with staff.

Paul Hudson


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Continuing Action

The exams action is taking effect on the chosen days and members are not attending examiners meeting where these have not been rearranged.

For technical and tactical reasons it has been decided to set national days for boycotting admissions. In England Wales and Northern Ireland these are 19th and 20th August.

As another step in the pay campaign, members are asked to refuse to deal with e-mails (other than AUT ones!) on each Friday starting on 25th June. These will be called FREMAIL DAYS so that members are free to concentrate on their core activities.

The technician’s union, MSF, who received the same 3½% offer, are likely to ballot their members and to take industrial action.

Our colleagues in the new universities have now been given the same "full and final offer" of 3½%. If the dispute is not settled by then we will include our colleagues in the new institutions in an industrial action ballot in the autumn. NATFHE have also rejected the offer and are deciding whether to go for an industrial action ballot now or to wait to the autumn.


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QUB Finances

I have often told you that Queen’s has money salted away in provisions for possible future expenditures. A new accounting standard greatly reduces the scope for this. The new rules mean that a provision can only be included in an organisation’s financial statements if there is a constructive or legal obligation to pay specific amounts and these amounts can be reliably estimated. The main impact is to remove from the accounts a number of provisions which have been created in the past. The rules apply to this year’s accounts, and for comparisons sake last year’s accounts have been redrawn according to the new rules. At a stroke of a pen last year’s surplus has jumped from £2.842M to £5.292M, and the General Reserves at the end of the year have increased from £28.355M to £35.690M.

The management is just finalising the budgets for the next academic year. After including £2.023M from general reserves to partly fund the academic plan, the sum to be distributed is £78.568M, which is an increase of 6.5%. However, £5.687M is required to fund the academic plan (excluding PRCS costs) and to fund top-sliced institutional items. This means that continuing academic activities are cut back by an average of 3% in cash. The Conference Fund has been reduced by a third with the statement that staff can apply to their departments for funds (but see the previous sentence). However, the budgets for the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, and the Communications Director are both increased by nearly a half. It’s how you spin it!

Car parking charges are to be increased by £1.00 a month.


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Claiming Expenses

One of the interesting aspects of operating both at the top and the bottom of the University is the contrast between what I am being told. Often I find that the picture presented at Senate, etc. does not correspond to the situation as I perceive it, and I chip in with a worm’s eye view. In this case it is the other way around. The document from the Bursar on the claiming of expenses, differs from the regulations approved by Senate. The suggestion that departments and units can set the per diem allowances etc. at a lower rate was not approved by Senate, and you should complain if anyone cuts back your expenses below the university-wide rate.


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Accelerated Increment and the Use of Discretionary Points

The management’s proposal to re-introduce these for academic staff has nearly worked its way through the system. As reported in our February Newsletter, we expressed considerable reservations about the proposed scheme. However, since it would benefit some members we consented to it going forward on a trial basis. The budget for it is about half of the discretionary pay that was arbitrarily taken into general funds last year. The Equal Opportunity Commission did not give any written comments on it, but we are particularly unhappy about the absence of self application.

A similar scheme for academic related staff is promised, but not even a draft has emerged yet.


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The Bett Report

This will finally be published on 23rd June. Belfast AUT should have copies of the report (cost £40) in both bound and CD versions. For copyright reasons it will not be available on the web, but anyone interested in seeing our copies should contact me. AUT’s draft response will be available in early July and the Bett Report and our reaction to it will be debate at a special meeting of AUT Council in London on 14th July. We will have difficulty in filling our delegation on that day, and any member who has a special interest in Bett and would like to attend should contact me.


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The Times Higher Education Supplement

The Whistleblowers column in Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) on 21st and 28th May attacked the competence of national AUT and Belfast AUT. This was on the basis of selective material from a tribunal case that Suresh Deman lost against AUT. Mr Deman is a member of AUT who was a Lecturer in Accountancy at Queen’s. We gave him assistance in his various problems which culminated in him losing his job by failing probation. He subsequently took tribunal cases against numerous national and local officers and officials in AUT.

 

On 11th June THES published the following letter from me as Secretary of Belfast AUT:

"Whistleblowers ¼ has attacked the Association of University Teachers at Queen’s University, Belfast, on the basis of very selective and out-of-context quotations from a tribunal case that Suresh Deman lost against the AUT.

"That Tribunal had no jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, and the statements about Belfast AUT were not tested in court. We vigorously deny the charges against us and look forward to clearing our name in a tribunal hearing in Northern Ireland. But we are in a long queue, since even in 1997 an official count showed that Deman had 32 complaints against 62 respondents in Northern Ireland, including the president of the Industrial Tribunal.

"However, you have found a rich vein of material for Whistleblowers, since Deman has many cases against universities in the UK and abroad."

Any member who wishes to see the full tribunal finding or our newspaper clippings should contact me.

AUT, both nationally and locally, is committed to equal opportunities and attempts to treat every member fairly.


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Upward Appraisal

In his Whitla Hall speech to staff in early 1998 the Vice-Chancellor promised the rapid introduction of "360 degree Appraisal" of all management positions. By this he meant that a manager would be appraised by their staff and "customers" as well as by their own boss. This "360 degree Appraisal" has yet to appear, although the management is seeking to make the appraisal of ordinary staff more closely tied to the achievements of targets.

All staff are supposed to be appraised annually by a superior. (At least until the start of the recent boycott.) All teaching staff are evaluated for each course by students through teaching questionnaires. All academic staff are evaluated by the Research Assessment Exercise and the Teaching Quality Assessments and all the preparations for them. The targeting of staff in the Academic Plan was an arbitrary, narrow and myopic form of appraisal. So the ordinary academic staff are being appraised until they are sick.

Appraisal should also apply to those who sit in judgement on us, since poor performance by these individuals can do so much damage to their department and the university. It has long been the policy of Belfast AUT that this appraisal should include the views of their staff and "customers". For this reason we have twice organised an anonymous upward appraisal by all academic and related staff of their superiors up to the highest levels. The results have been appalling. Since the university management have failed to set up "360 degree Appraisal", we will repeat of exercise in the early autumn.

Paul Hudson


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Annual General Meeting
23rd June at 1 p.m.

Room W110,
staircase C, Lanyon

Agenda

    1. Minutes and matters arising.
    2. Election of Officers and General Members.
    3. Reports from the Outgoing Officers.
    4. Setting of the Local Subscription and the Appointment of Auditors
    5. Continuing Industrial Action — Degree Days, Boycott of Bureaucracy, etc.
    6. Discussion of the following motion, proposed by John Lynch:
    7. "Belfast AUT wish to express their concern at the recent decision to cease payments for students attending adult education institutions outside Northern Ireland. We note that the trade union college at Oxford, Ruskin, is amongst the institutions affected.

      "We request that in view of the limited saving that this change will allow that this decision be reviewed at the earliest opportunity."

      If passed this motion would be forwarded to the DENI.

    8. Notice of intention to change our local rules in line with model local rules.
    9. Any other business.

 

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Committee Elections

As they were the only candidates nominated the following will be automatically elected at the AGM:

President

Dr Renee Prendergast

Economics

Honorary Secretary

Dr Paul Hudson

Statistics & OR

Secretary for Local Issues

Dr John Lynch

Continuing Education

Honorary Treasurer

Ms Susan Harte

International Liaison Office

Membership Secretary

Dr J Max Goldstrom

AUT Office, Admin

Assistant Secretary

Mr George Dunn

Computing Services

Richard Jay remains ex-officio Vice-President.

There have been five nominations for General Member:

M/s Gaynor Creighton

Medical Library

Dr W Duncan Mercer

Biochemistry

M/s Nicole Mezey

Continuing Education

Mrs Jill Stewart-Moore

Nursing & Midwifery

Dr Donald Sykes

Psychology

As there only four positions, technically there should be a vote at the AGM. However there are other vacancies on the Committee to which some people could move, and we hope to avoid turning away any of these volunteers.

Paul Hudson

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George Dunn, Assistant Secretary